This time Japan had to play Iceland. Considering that the coach of the young Japanese team, Dagur Sigurðsson, is himself an Icelander, this was quite an interesting fixture.
The northern Europeans had some problems at the beginning of the World Championships and started the tournament with two defeats against Croatia and Spain. They finally managed their first win against Bahrain, and now the handball enthusiasts from Iceland want to build upon it.
Japan, on the other hand, had been the big outsider from the beginning of the tournament and only entered the preliminary round on the basis of a wildcard. Even if they haven't been able to claim a single point yet, they certainly have shown that the work of coach Sigurðsson is already showing results. Especially in their last match against European champions Spain, when the Iberians struggled to defeat the passionately fighting Japanese. At halftime, the only team from East Asias were even in the lead.
And now against Iceland, and again Japan were battling a great fight, which unfortunately was not rewarded this time either. Especially in the first half Japan was at equal level with the Icelanders and even took the lead with 12:11 shortly before half time. But Iceland was able to turn the first and only deficit around quickly and then took a 13:12 into the break.
The second half was pretty similar and again the Northmen did not manage to take off and increase their lead since Japan was able to stay close. The smaller Japanese players tried to make up for the physical superiority of the Icelanders with passion and speed and thus made it repeatedly through the defense up to their opponents' goal. And they also were successful in finishing their attacks, best scorer was Yuto Agarie with 4 goals. On the other side, Arnor Thor Gunnarsson and Stefan Rafn Sigurmannsson with 5 goals each were the best scorers for Island.
It remained exciting until just before the end, as the northern Europeans did not manage to shake off their opponents and the Japanese side with a strong and disciplined team performance ensured that the game remained open.
Unfortunately for Japan, as in the previous games, in the end it was just not enough to win or at least to take one point with them.
The Icelandic players have to thank their goalkeeper Björgvin Pall Gustavsson, who made sure that they kept their lead in the second half and were able to defeat the Japanese team 25-21.
Iceland now has a still chance to reach the next round, while Japan has only one chance left to celebrate a successful farewell to the World Cup. In the last preliminary round game, the players from the Far East will face Bahrain, which lost against Croatia 20:32 and like Japan is still without points in this tournament.
Once again it's fingers crossed for the young Japanese team, which takes advantage of this tournament as a test run for the upcoming Olympic Games next year, where they will have another great opportunity to show an international audience that they know how to play handball in the land of the rising sun.